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What we learned about the 2019 Georgia football team through the first week of practice
As hard as it might be to believe, Georgia has been back practicing for a full week now. The team will have Friday off before the first scrimmage of the fall on Saturday.
Even though there have only been limited viewing windows — and only two fully-padded practices — there have been some interesting nuggets and tidbits that have stood out so far regarding the team. Below, we’ve rounded up some of the quotes and observations that have caught our eye so far:
A pecking order emerges at quarterback:
Jake Fromm is obviously going to be the starter for Georgia this year. But as for his back-up, there were some questions coming out of spring whether it might be Stetson Bennett or D’Wan Mathis.
But following Mathis’ offseason brain surgery, it’s looking like Bennett would be the first guy off the bench should Fromm be unable to go. While Mathis is able to practice in a controlled environment, it is still not known whether or not he is fully cleared for contact. The longer it takes for that to happen, the harder it becomes to see Mathis possibly passing Bennett on the depth chart.
Another Zamir White story:
White has been one of the most asked about players during fall camp, and that was to be expected given his injury history and perceived talent. It is interesting to note that White has not had a knee brace on during the first couple of padded practices.
As for how he has looked so far for Georgia, teammate Eric Stokes was blown away pretty early on.
“I am just happy that he is really out there,” Stokes said. “I literally remember the first play of this year during camp and he burst through a hole and me, William Poole, all looked at each other like ‘Dang, he was really moving on them.’ So I am really excited to see what he is going to bring.”
You can guarantee that Smart will be asked about White’s progress following Saturday’s practice.
High praise for the freshmen at wide receiver:
Given that George Pickens and Dominick Blaylock are the two highest-rated wide receiver signees the Bulldogs have landed in a decade, a lot of eyes were going to be on them this fall. Georgia must replace its top-five receiving leaders from a season ago, so there is going to be an opportunity for those two to earn playing time early on.
And so far the reviews have been very good. Pickens has drawn an AJ Green comparison from safety Richard LeCounte.
The junior safety also gave a pretty in-depth scouting report on Blaylock as well.
“When he catches the ball, you might as well get ready to tackle,” LeCounte said. “I see him as a great possession guy that’s fast. His speed is very deceptive if you’re not ready for him.”
But for as much praise as Pickens and Blaylock have gotten, they still have their work cut out for them. A clear pecking order has emerged at wide receiver so far, as Tyler Simmons, Lawrence Cager and Demetris Robertson have spent most of the time running with the first team during the media viewing portion of practice.
Depth a concern at tight end?
Georgia was down two tight ends at practice on Thursday, as neither Eli Wolf or Ryland Goede were spotted at practice. Furthermore, John Fitzpatrick — or “FitzMagic” as Todd Hartley has been calling him — had a massive elbow brace on.
Wolf and Goede could very well be back at practice on Saturday during the scrimmage. The Bulldogs don’t have a lot of experience at the tight end position outside of Charlie Woerner. And even more could fall on his plate this season if some of the other guys in the room are not able to stay healthy.
Does it ultimately matter who starts at right guard?
Georgia is one of the few schools that can claim it has the best offensive line in the country. Part of the reason is because of tremendous depth the Bulldogs have along the offensive line. There’s a real chance that former 5-star prospects Cade Mays and Jamaree Salyer both end up not starting this season.
The left tackle, left guard and center spots seem pretty certain as Andrew Thomas, Solomon Kindley and Trey Hill seem like locks to start at those respective positions. It also appears Isaiah Wilson will be the starter at right tackle, despite getting pushed by Salyer.
The closest battle has been between Mays and Ben Cleveland at the right guard spot. Both players started multiple games at the position a year ago and there was no noticeable drop off between the two. Cleveland is fully healthy now, and given the difference he made for Georgia in the run-up to the 2017-18 National Championship Game, he seems like the front-runner to win the job at this point in time.
But both players would be very good options for the Bulldogs this fall.
Mostly quite along the defensive front:
There haven’t been a lot of questions asked about the defensive line so far during fall practice. The group has a number of veterans returning as well as five 2019 signees.
The two players who have gotten the most attention so far are sophomore Jordan Davis and freshman Travon Walker. Davis has gotten high marks so far, and will likely continue to do so should he keep up with his conditioning. Davis went on to play a key role for the Bulldogs over the second half of the season. When he missed the Sugar Bowl with an injury, the Georgia run defense did take a step backwards, as Texas ran for 178 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Walker is the highest-rated newcomer along the defensive line, as he was a 5-star prospect out of Thomaston, Ga. His effort level has already caught the eye of some veterans on the team.
“Travon and David (Marshall) come from the same place, so they’ve just got that dog in them,” Kindley said. “Travon, he works very hard. He’s a very good pass rusher. He gets off the ball really fast. Travon can be really good, he just has to stick to it and keep going.”
Just because the likes of Tyler Clark and Malik Herring haven’t been mentioned much, does not mean they are having a poor camp by any means. Given that Georgia rotates so many guys in on the defensive line, we won’t likely see a lot of real separation among the players in the group until the season starts.
Ask Kirby Smart when it comes to Brenton Cox:
Since Dan Lanning was first asked about Cox this past Monday, the responses have all been the same. The defensive players who spoke with the media on Thursday all said that the media will have to ask Smart about what happened with Cox. The Georgia head coach is set to speak with the media again on Saturday.
While Smart will likely get a lot of questions about the team’s first scrimmage, this will be one of the bigger topics of the day.
Nakobe Dean impressing with his intelligence
Just about everyone has raved about Nakobe Dean’s intelligence on and off the field so far. Hearing teammates and coaches talk about him early on, it’s easy to see why he’s been so hyped-up dating back to the spring.
“We knew he was a good student; we knew he was a high-character guy before he ever got here and I think that’s just carried over to this time of year,” Lanning said.
Long-time DawgNation readers will know that Dean has always been incredibly smart. He was a straight-A student and would’ve considered Stanford as a serious option if it allowed mid-year enrollees.
Dean might not be able to unseat either Monty Rice or Tae Crowder by the start of the season, but he is going to be a very important player for Georgia at inside linebacker this fall.
Tyrique Stevenson earning high marks, but first-team secondary appears set
All three of Georgia’s 2019 defensive back signees enrolled early and were able to get acclimated during spring practice. And now that fall camp has rolled around, Stevenson, Lewis Cine and DJ Daniel have all gotten off to strong starts in fall camp.
Stevenson was the highest-ranked of the trio, and so far he has impressed his teammates and coaches so far with his athleticism.
“Tyrique Stevenson is a special guy,” Stokes said. “If you want somebody that can track a ball like a wide receiver, it’s pretty much him. I’m coming in thinking, ‘Dang, this guy has tremendous ball skills.’”
The freshman from Miami has practiced well so far. And that says a lot about the guys in front of Stevenson on the depth chart, as the first team secondary has continued to be Stokes and Tyson Campbell at the cornerback positions and JR Reed and LeCounte at safety. Mark Webb has gotten a lot of the first-team reps at the star position so far as well.
More Georgia football stories from around DawgNation
- Azeez Ojulari confident in unproven outside linebacker room
- Georgia freshman WR George Pickens ‘reminds you a lot of A.J. Green’
- Caleb Williams: The nation’s No. 1 junior QB, his Sour Patch Kids and his thoughts on UGA
- Georgia expecting big things from 6-foot-5 grad transfer Lawrence Cager
- 6 things to know about Georgia football 2020 schedule
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